Yesterday the United Methodist Church, among other denominations, celebrated World Communion Sunday. Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, is a way of remembering and receiving God’s grace, and it is an act that unites the people of the church with Jesus and with one another, even across denominational, global, racial, or any other lines. On World Communion Sunday, we remember that truth.
Yet, there is also reason to lament as we consider the global relationship, or lack thereof, of the church. The meal of communion is an act of unity, but it is also a ritual over which the church has created division – questions and arguments over what exactly happens in the meal, what God is doing, what we consume, who is welcome at the table, how often to receive, and what it takes to be prepared for the meal.
Christians have made the meal of unity an occasion for disunity, from an early point in the church’s history and still today.
There is a sadness to acknowledge at the table, yet there is hope for the church’s oneness. We read Lamentations 3:19-26:
I call all this to mind – therefore, I will wait…
I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him. (21,24)
The Hebrew word for “wait” is also the word for “hope” (also in Spanish). Waiting is hoping. To come to the table, even in the face of division and pain, is hope in what God does through this meal. At our little communion tables, we wait; we hope in the relationship of all God’s people to Christ, and therefore to one another. We have hope because, even when we divide ourselves, God somehow sees all the church as one. Communion helps us catch that vision.